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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Cornerstones of Novel Building by Author Tracey Bateman

Tracey Bateman lives in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks which provide much of her inspiration for the books she writes. She has approximately one million books in print. Tracey loves to hear from readers! Contact her through www.traceybateman.com.



The Cornerstones of Novel Building

Practically every time I give an interview, I’m asked about my “process.” It’s an easy question to go to for interviewers, I think, because it’s assumed “creative’s” know what they’re doing and have a tried and true method of getting from idea to The End. And many writers do have a process they swear by.

But not everyone approaches the craft of writing the same way. And trying to fit yourself into another writer’s box could potentially lock you up, frustrate you and keep you from ever writing the book of your heart.

The moment the inevitable question of “process” comes up, every book I’ve written (all 40), flashes through my mind and I get confused. Because every book comes to me in a different way and, I approach the crafting of each story uniquely. It’s not so much that I have a process, but rather, each story has to be told the way that story reveals itself to me. Occasionally that means extensive early plotting, sometimes I do character sheets, sometimes I use the Snowflake method, sometimes I’ll sit on my deck completely still and let the character come to me like a new friend. Or maybe I’m in the tub. Who knows? When a character comes to me with a story worth telling, I know she’s the real deal.

There are no two ways about it, no matter your process, novels have to be crafted—the way you craft can be unique to you, but there are elements that must be given attention. I call these the four cornerstones of novel building. Space doesn’t permit an in depth look at each, but I’ll briefly touch on them

The first, most important (in my opinion) element is Character. I approach each cornerstone from the character’s development.

If your character seems like a stranger to you, there's a pretty good chance you’ll get to chapter five or ten, or fourteen and hit a major snag. It takes time to really get to know someone in real life and the same is true about a story character. So taking a little time to understand where she came from, what she loves, what she hates, what she wants more than anything else in the world, will help you move her journey forward.


Setting: Where you plunk down your character will shape her worldview. A southerner in 1860 won’t think the same way as a girl from Boston or New York or even Kansas during the same time period. And each scene has its own setting that is equally important. Learning to weave your character in and out of her environment will add authenticity and believability to the story. (I wish I had time to stay here and teach for awhile!!)

Plot: Knowing your character and where she comes from will springboard the plot elements. Knowing what she wants will help you craft the plot in a way that keeps her in and out of trouble—the conflict, central to her, to keep the story moving and readers interested.


Theme: Understanding your character’s goals and motives will shape the theme, although some start with a story question and fit the character into it. That’s okay too as long as the focus isn’t so much about your desire to send a message that you try to jam the character into the story in an unnatural way.

So no matter your process, take a little time to set these four cornerstones and your book will shape up nicely! If you have any questions feel free to contact me at author4god@gmail.com or Facebook.


Corrie Saunders grew up in a life of privilege.

But she gave it all up for Jarrod, her Army husband, a man she knew was a hero when she vowed to spend her life with him. She just didn’t expect her hero to sacrifice his life taking on an Iraqi suicide bomber.


Six months after Jarrod’s death, Corrie retreats to the family home her husband inherited deep in the Missouri Ozarks. She doesn’t know how to live without Jarrod—she doesn’t want to. By moving to Saunders Creek and living in a house beloved by him, she hopes that somehow her Jarrod will come back to her.



2 comments:

Patty Smith Hall said...

Thanks for being with us today, Tracey. I wished I'd had this article YEARS ago when I first started writing-it would have saved me a lot of time and effort in the learning process.

J. Perrino said...

I wholeheartedly agree, Tracey. When I first started writing fiction I kept reading/hearing that I "must" go with an outline. So I created one and then wondered why I never wanted to spend time writing anymore! The process definitely isn't "one size fits all," and I appreciate your pointing that out.